Op-eds

ADL survey not an accurate reflection of SA

  • AboveBoardShaunZagnoev (3)
Not only those of us in the field, but even ordinary community members were taken by surprise by the results of a new survey into anti-Semitic attitudes conducted under the auspices of the Anti-Defamation League.
by SHAUN ZAGNOEV | Dec 05, 2019

According to these findings, nearly one in two South Africans has an unfavourable view of Jews, a rate that with the exception of Poland is considerably higher for any of the other countries surveyed. This squarely contradicts not only the objective evidence that we and other research bodies, including the University of Cape Town’s Kaplan Centre, have compiled over the years, but the everyday experiences of the person in the street.

Elsewhere in this week’s issue, South African Jewish Board of Deputies National Vice-Chair Professor Karen Milner and Associate Director David Saks unpack what the survey actually says, describing some of the puzzling anomalies and glaring contradictions that emerge once the data is examined more closely. This has confirmed our sense that so far as our own society is concerned, the survey clearly failed to reflect the realities of the South African situation, and that a different approach should be considered when the occasion next arises to assess the nature and extent of anti-Semitic attitudes in this country.

Good news for UJ students

Over the past decade, the board has gone to a great deal of effort to make alternative arrangements for University of Johannesburg students whose exams have been set on Shabbat. In terms of our agreement with the university, the students concerned have been allowed to write their papers at Beyachad immediately after Shabbat, under our supervision, and after having been under the supervision of their rabbi during the preceding day. It has been a complex process involving frequent meetings with the university, engaging with students, arranging visits for them to the Beth Din, organising rabbinic supervision throughout Shabbat, and our staff being present and facilitating the exams at our offices with UJ invigilators for six Shabbatot a year. We are therefore delighted to learn that from next year, UJ will no longer be holding exams on Saturdays, which will make everyone’s lives a great deal easier.

The situation regarding UNISA (the University of South Africa) students is unfortunately a bit more complicated. While UNISA doesn’t schedule exams on Shabbat, it is all but unavoidable in view of the large number of students that have to be catered for that exams will sometimes fall on the chagim (Jewish holidays). Over many years, the SAJBD has paid for UNISA invigilators to supervise motzei chag (end of Yom Tov) exams at Beyachad, which is an official UNISA exam centre. Unfortunately this year, one clash required legal intervention on our part before it could be resolved. The SAJBD, as always, will ensure that our students are never unfairly disadvantaged because of their religious commitments. For their own part, those with scheduling clashes need to notify us as timeously as possible to facilitate working with the university to make alternative arrangements.

  • Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM, every Friday from 12:00 to 13:00.

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